Faculty & Staff

Michelle Burnie

Michele Burnie, Art Therapy Instructor, earned her Bachelors in Art and her Masters in Art Therapy. In her work at clinical and studio settings she applied her belief in the healing, life enhancing qualities of art to assist clients in coping with life's stressors, transitions, and realities, as well as celebrating their many accomplishments.

Since joining the faculty at Alverno College, Michele works toward helping students identify their own beliefs, strengths and stressors as they build their artist/art therapist/art educator identity. She encourages them to use art for expression, communication, nourishment and self-awareness.

Michele is active in her own creative process and encourages her students to stay engaged in their own art making. By knowing their creative process and having a depth of experience with a variety of materials, students have the best possible base of knowledge for succeeding in their area of study.

Michele's continued alliance with the state and national Art Therapy Associations assists in educating the general public on the uses of art to explore, expand and transform lives.


Valerie J. Christell

Valerie J. Christell lives, works and maintains a studio in the Milwaukee area. She’s taught a variety of classes at Alverno over the years and is the former gallery director. Currently she’s teaching Figure Drawing classes and is a member of Alverno’s Art and Environment Committee.

After receiving her Bachelor’s of Fine Arts degree in painting from the University of Illinois/Urbana-Champaign, Christell received her Master’s of Fine Arts degree in printmaking from the University of Wisconsin/Milwaukee. Since then, she has continued her education with post-graduate study in art history.

In creating her art, Christell works in a variety of media, including drawing (clayboard, charcoal and pencil), found object, digital photography collages, art/poetry collaboration and installation. Through these media, she continues to express the concept of the process of life and its impact on one’s humanity through visual metaphors. These metaphors involve images from nature (land, volcanoes and trees) intertwined with those of the human figure (bones, muscles and veins).

As co-founder of Art Against Genocide, Christell has created a number of genocide-oriented art installations at Alverno as well as throughout southeastern Wisconsin. This political art group’s mission is to educate as well as motivate viewers to take action against genocide. Through such art installations, Christell also continues to be involved in the efforts of Alverno’s recently-formed activist group Beyond our Borders.


Nancy Lamers

Nancy Lamers teaches a variety of courses including studio art, art history, methods courses for future teachers, general education and international study.

She integrates her work as an international educator with a focus on the study of art in historical context. Her area of expertise is the Ancient, Renaissance and Baroque arts of Italy.

She is currently continuing study in Asian and Mesoamerican arts and culture. Prior to joining the Alverno College faculty, she taught art in the public schools and in museum settings.

Her personal area of expertise is as a painter. Ms. Lamers received her MFA degree in Painting and Drawing following receipt of the bachelor's and master's degrees in art education. Areas of specialization include watercolor, oil and encaustic paint media.

She exhibits widely and has received numerous awards for her painting. She is active in the southeastern chapter of Wisconsin Painters and Sculptors serving as Chairperson.

Her interests are in lifelong learning, encouraging artists to become engaged with their community, development of programs for artists, and in the mentoring of artists who will be our future leaders.

Visit Nancy Lamers' web site to view her paintings on-line:


Dara Larson

Dara Larson lives and works in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She teaches courses in Fibers, Printmaking, Drawing, Papermaking in Global Cultures, Installation Art, Artist's Books, Contemporary Topics in Art as well as International Studies travel courses to Mexico and Spain.

Ms. Larson received her Bachelor of Science in Studio Art from the University of Wisconsin-Stout and completed Post Baccalaureate study in Art History at the University of Salamanca-Spain.

She earned her Master of Fine Arts degree in Printmaking and Drawing at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Larson works in a variety of media including printmaking, painting, drawing, papermaking, artist's books and sculpture. Her work has been exhibited and resides in collections in the United States, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, Paraguay, Spain, Russia and China.

Professor Larson was recently awarded a grant from the U.S. Department of Education to explore Latin Studies Initiatives for Alverno College. As a component of the grant she completed study in Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil and is developing course materials based upon this travel. She has also given presentations on international study at the International Partnerships in Service Learning Conference in Quito, Ecuador, and the Association of Academic Programs in Latin America and the Caribbean Conference in Cuerna Vaca, Mexico.

In addition to her teaching, Larson maintains a studio practice. Many of the subjects in Larson's work focus upon travel, visual icons and cultural patterns that change meaning when combined with icons of other cultures.

She has traveled and studied in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, North America, Central America and South America. During her studies, Ms. Larson collects photographs, printed matter and impressions about the cultural specificity of local events and images. She expands this study with her own point of view in a magic realist approach to storytelling.

To view the artwork of Dara Larson, please visit this web site:


Lynda Somers

Lynda Somers has been at Alverno since 1999 teaching Ceramics, Metals, Sculpture and recently introduced Glass Forming and Enameling to Alverno students.

In Ceramics, students will learn to hand building clay skills such as coil, pinch, and slab methods. For the advanced students, Lynda has her students concentrate on wheel throwing and the creation of large sculptural work.

Working with Styrofoam and the lost wax casting methods, Lynda's Metal class will produce aluminum and bronze cast artworks. She has an annual casting pour "Women Working Metal" held in October in which the entire school can participate.
Students also learn various welding methods and jewelry casting.

The Sculpture class includes learning how to weld, metal and wood construction and utilizing found objects in sculptural configurations.

In the Glass Forming class, Lynda teaches glass fusion, the melting together of several layers of colored glass. Her students also explore glass enameling, which is akin to painting only with powdered glasses. This is a new and exciting class, which adds another dimension to student work.

In Fall 2005, Lynda became the new Director for the Alverno Arts and Cultures Gallery.

1990 Bachelor of Fine Arts in Ceramics UW-Milwaukee, WI
1996 Master of Fine Arts in Sculpture


Kate Weishaar

Kate Weishaar was born in Albemarle County, Virginia and grew up in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Iowa before arriving in Wisconsin.

Following completion of her BAE in Oshkosh, Wisconsin she taught grades K-12 art and coached volleyball and track in Washburn County, Wisconsin.

After becoming a tenured faculty in Washburn County her passion for art and rural culture led to Ogemaw County, Michigan, where she taught high school art full time and coached varsity volleyball, as well as teaching in Community Education programs and beginning a therapeutic art program in local long-term care facilities. While in Michigan she earned a Masters Degree in Counseling and her Ph. D. in Counseling Psychology and Aging.

Upon returning to Wisconsin she has gained additional work experience in private practice, inpatient psychiatric, and skilled care facilities. A licensed art therapist and psychotherapist she offers over eighteen years of private practice experience in addition to her many years of program development and teaching.

For a glimpse of her work, see (2002) F.M.Burton and A.M. Stampp (Ed.s), Celebrating Door County’s Wild Places: Paintings of the Peninsula, p. 112, or “The visual life review as a therapeutic art framework with the terminally ill, “The International Journal of the Arts in Psychotherapy, 26(3), 173-184.


Jean Kovac

Kathy Walter

Jeanne Zilske